“No ambition to oppress them”?
Recently, I’ve been reading Overthrow: America’s Century of Regime Change from Hawaii to Iraq, a book by veteran New York Times correspondent Stephen Kinzer, which focuses on US-backed coups from 1893 (Hawaii) to Iraq (2003). In the book, Kinzer devotes only fourteen pages to Puerto Rico, a small island nation controlled by the murderous empire of the United States. On page 94, he declares that “most Puerto Ricans” understand that the US, despite colonial “misdeeds,” harbors “no ambition to oppress them.” He goes on to say that most want to continue ties with the US and that colonial rule has been “relatively benign,” meaning it was partially beneficial to islanders. In his view, this hasn’t led to a “violent backlash” because of US efforts to take “direct political responsibility” to govern the island, and even floats the idea that there could be a reasonable case that US control over the island has made it “better off”! Kinzer ends optimistically, saying that “a happy end to the long story” would not only take away stigma of US citizens from “ruling another people” but would tell them that “toppling of foreign regimes need not end badly.” Such words, like this, reek of apologism for imperialism and existing US colonialism in Puerto Rico. In this article, using quotes from Kinzer’s own book, I plan to prove that US rule in the island nation has not been “relatively benign,” but that the US imperialists should not be seen as engaging in “nice” oppression, with “no ambition,” of Puerto Rico’s citizens.
On May 12, 1898, seven US warships appeared off the coast of San Juan. They soon began their bombardment, firing over 1,300 shells, met by a Spanish response of about 400 shells, killed a dozen people and one US soldier.1 The small island nation of Puerto Rico comprises of an island 3,515 square miles across, called Borinquen by many native residents, three inhabited islands (Vieques, Cuelbra, and Mona), and 140 other small reefs, islands, and atolls. For over 400 years, the island was an established Spanish colony (1493-1898), with the indigenous Taino nation pushed into forced labor as part of the encomienda system. It was not until the early nineteenth century that Puerto Rico would be integrated into the international capitalist economy.2
The island, which exported commodities such as coffee and tobacco, became a sugar colony, supported by the country’s Creole elite, with 276 sugar plantations dotting the island’s landscape.3 As the sugar industry thrived, thousands of white wage laborers and enslaved blacks suffered in the “sugar haciendas,” or plantations, concentrated near Ponce, Guayama, and Mayaguez.4 The number of enslaved black laborers, who were mistreated, abused, and overworked despite “favorable” laws, reached into the tens of thousands, numbering 17,890 in 1828.5 They were chosen over wage laborers as more profitable for the sugar industry.6 It would not be until 1873 that slavery would be abolished in the Spanish empire, but the exploitation would not end, continuing under the system of apprenticeship, for example.7
About two months before the US warships arrived, Puerto Rico had elected a new government. The Spanish, likely in a measure to stave off revolt, had offered the Puerto Ricans political autonomy.8 They didn’t want rebellions like the Lares Uprising (Grito de Lares) in 1868 or the Attempted Coup of Yauco (Intentona de Yauco) in 1897 which were strongly pro-independence and opposed to Spanish colonial rule. On March 27, 1898, Luis Munoz Rivera’s Liberal Fusion Party was elected in a legislative body, created with agreement from the “liberal” Spanish government, of the island’s autonomous government.9 However, this would not last. On July 25, US marines from the Glouchester gunboat waded ashore, raising a US flag above a customs house after a short exchange of firearms.10
As Kinzer puts it, after the US flag fluttered in the breeze above the customs house, the “United States effectively took control of Puerto Rico” with every institution of Spanish colonial control, and the autonomous Liberal Fusion Party government, would quickly disappear. The objective of the US imperialists like Theodore “Teddy” Roosevelt, who declared that “Puerto Rico is not forgotten [in this war] and we mean to have it” came to be true, with US trade routes protected and a naval base established on the island.11 While some Puerto Ricans welcomed the US presence, this quickly changed, as the US seizure of the island nation became “legal” with the Treaty of Paris.12
The imposition of US imperialism on Puerto Rico began in 1898 as the island was declared a colony. Luis Munoz Rivera, the former leader of the island before the US arrived, declared that “we are witnessing a spectacle of terrible assimilation… our present condition is that of serfs attached to conquered territory.”13 The “individual freedom” that was promised, was not delivered upon, with the US instead engaging in exploitation which, as Martinquis revolutionary Frantz Fanon said about all colonizers, was part of a spiral of “domination, exploitation and looting.”14
The bank on the island was transferred to US investors, who printed Puerto Rican dollars, pegged to the US dollar, replacing the Spanish peso. Other banks were established on the island by investors such as the American Colonial Bank, which opened in 1899. As a result, new taxes were imposed. The following years, as US military troops remained in place as an occupying force, the US Congress passed the Foraker Act which put the Puerto Rican assembly under direct US control.15 As the people of the island nation had “no liberty, no rights, no protection,” as civil rights campaigner Julio Henna once put it, four US corporations took over land on the island for mass production and farming.16 This was reinforced by one of Insular Cases, which some say established “political apartheid,” Downes v. Bidwell (1901) in which the Supreme Court held that Puerto Rico wasn’t a foreign country, allowing Congress to treat it like a dependent colonial possession.
In later years, the island nation forced “permanent uncertainty” in its political status. In 1910, foreign banks began foreclosing on land in Puerto Rico, and the island became an official protectorate in 1913 with the existing naval bases reinforcing economic and ideological interests.17 By World War I, with the imposition of US citizenship with the Jones Act, 18,000 Puerto Ricans were conscripted to fight in the forces of empire as 200 Puerto Ricans were arrested for refusing to participate. Such imposition did not end there. From 1920 to 1923, Moncho Reyes ruled as the Governor on the island, declaring English as the only official language, not Spanish, and that the US flag is the only one to be flown across the island. He was only forced out by corruption scandals. This was accompanied the Balzac v. Porto Rico (1922) case, in which the Supreme Court said that provisions of the US constitution did not apply to a “territory” that was not a US state. In the following years, more and more of the island was controlled by US corporations, including 80% of the farms, and half of the arable land!
By the 1930s, medicine went to war on the island’s inhabitants. In 1931, Dr. Cornelius P. Rhoads injected patients on the island with live cancer cells, with thirteen people dying. He bragged about killing them, calling for a “tidal wave or something to totally exterminate the population” and saying that the island’s inhabitants were “the dirtiest, laziest, most degenerate and thievish race of men ever inhabiting this sphere.” He went on to head the US Army’s Biological Weapons division, serve on the Atomic Energy Commission, and sent memos to US military leaders expressing the opinion that Puerto Rican supporters of independence should be “eradicated” with the use of germ bombs! This was only a prelude, in a sense.
Henry Laughlin, superintendent of the US Eugenics Record Office, pushed the Model Eugenical Sterilization Law, targeting “socially inadequate” people for sterilization in 30 US states and Puerto Rico. On the island itself, in 1936, Law 116 entered into force by making sterilization legal and free for women, with no alternative plan of birth control, backed by the International Planned Parenthood Federation18, the Puerto Rican government, and Human Betterment Association. It was voluntary, only in theory, with employer discrimination and a dearth of other options giving women the incentive to participate, coupled with the veneer of being “feminist” and sometimes a lack of informed consent. This was done after scientists conducted research experiments on Puerto Rican women who had taken birth control pills, with a high amount of estrogen. Such an approach was rejected by the Catholic Church, which supported sterilization instead. By the 1970s, this horrendous practice ended, with more than one-third of Puerto Rico’s female population of childbearing age undergoing the procedure.19
At the same time, repression of the island’s spirit and feelings for independence intensified. On October 24, 1935, police at the campus of the University of Puerto Rico confronted nationalists, resulting in the death of four nationalists and one police officer, in what has been called the Rios Piedras massacre, what police chief E. Francis Riggs declared was part of his “war to the death against all Puerto Ricans.” In response to this action, the nationalist party called for a boycott to all actions held while Puerto Rico was a part of the United States.
The nationalist party continued its actions on the island. On March 21, 1937, it peacefully marched to Ponce. As they requested a permit, it was denied, and as they continued the action, police cordoned off unarmed demonstrators, then firing upon them from multiple directions, killing a total of 21 and wounding 140-200 people, in what has been called the Ponce Massacre. As “hysteria and near civil war swept the island” with nationalists arrested and hunted on sight, 23 nationalists and four police officers were arrested for participation in the massacre, with the ACLU even investigating the matter, finding that the protesters were not armed and had been surrounded by the police.
As the years passed, the US strengthened its hold on the island. By 1940, 80% of the country’s arable land was US-owned. In 1939, the US began bombing on the island of Culebra (which it later fully occupied until protests in the 1970s forced it to move operations to Vieques), and two years later, it began the occupation of Vieques, an island of 7,000 inhabitants. As William Blum, a renowned critic of US foreign policy, writes, from 1940 to 2000, the Puerto Rican island of Vieques, had to endure years of “target practices and war games” which included dropping depleted uranium and napalm.20 This led to the island’s drinking water to be reportedly poisoned and resulted in the land being “contaminated by radioactivity.”
Even as US military officials outrageously said that they could only have a bombing range on that island since one on the East Coast would be too close to population centers, President Bill Clinton promised that the US would stop using the bombing range in 2005.21 With international pressure and local protests, the bombing range stopped being used in 2003, but was accompanied by the closing of the Roosevelt Roads naval facility, the following year, almost to make residents “regret” their decision. Still, this was another victory against the empire. Such bombing on Vieques and Culebra islands was not the only imposition. From 1948 to 1957, Law 53, also called Le Ley de Mondonza or “gag law,” made it illegal to support or say anything construed as pro-independence, with a penalty of ten years in prison.
As the Cold War started, by arrogant imperialists who didn’t want to have friendly relationships with the Soviets after World War II, the imperialists began their “charm offensive” to the world stage. US leaders were recognizing that “ruling an impoverished colony in the Caribbean made the United States look bad.”22 Of course, they could only say this, feeling assured that those in the Puerto Rican government, like Luis Munoz Martin, the “Father of Modern Puerto Rico,” were accommodationist to US imperial power, even pushing for Law 53 and by the 1950s, at least, was clearly a symbol of an organ of the machine of colonial control.
In the UN, the US government attempted to stifle criticism of US colonial control by working on changing the country to a commonwealth. Diplomats saw the island helping in the anti-communist Korean War as a vital “political association” which respects individuality and culture of the island, and declaring that the occupation was legal. As the diplomats frankly admitted, declaring colonial control of the island nation as “free choice” of the residents would head off attacks “by those who have charged the United States government with imperialism and colonial exploitation.” While the “Soviet bloc” argued correctly that self-government didn’t exist in Puerto Rico, diplomats claimed they had a “strong case” of moving Puerto Rico from the list of non-self-governing territories (discussed more in the following paragraph), even as they felt difficulties would arise in the “usual anti-colonial propaganda by Iron Curtain countries,” along with other factors.
This veneer was first reinforced by the Constitutional Referendum in 1952, which approved a constitution proposed in 1950 by the US Congress, stripped of social democratic measures before it was approved, after negotiation with the accommodationist leaders on the island, including Governor Marin. Not surprisingly, independence was never offered as an option, showing that the motive of the US could have been to douse revolutionary feelings. The second reinforcement was on November 27, 1953, when the US imperialists achieved a victory which allowed “approval” of the commonwealth status of the island. The passing of Resolution 748, in the UN’s General Assembly, after a push of US hegemony, made it clear that the US was given sanction to determine the “status of territories under its sovereignty.” Years later, the US imperialists have tried to soften the push for independence by allowing multiple plebiscites on the island to “decide” its fate, but none of these considered that the island is a colony and needs to have self-determination, as asserted in UN General Assembly resolution 1514, described later in this article.
This may be the basis of Kinzer’s claim that colonialism in Puerto Rico has been “benign” and that US imperialists had “no ambition” to oppress the island’s inhabitants. Some may even think the idea the island is under “self-rule” or a change in its status, means that neocolonialism is in place. These are both incorrect. For neocolonialism to be present, the island would have to be under indirect colonial control. Such domination, unlike direct colonial control of the past keeping people politically and economically exploited, often used by Britain, France, and the United States, would require formal recognition of political independence even with domination by political, economic, social, military, and other means.23
This “norm” of neocolonialism, which exists under imperial rivalry, and assists profitable enterprises, is not the case in Puerto Rico.24 This is because the island is not formally an independent political entity. As recently as October 2016, the Supreme Court held that while the island nation functioned as a separate sovereign entity for certain purposes, the authority to govern the island derives from the US Constitution, saying that the US Congress still has the supreme authority over the island.25
This is buttressed by the case of United States v. Sanchez in 1993, in which a US Court of Appeals which said that Congress may unilaterally repeal the constitution of Puerto Rico, and a congressional committee report in 1997 declaring that the island is “subject to the supremacy of the Federal Constitution and laws passed by Congress,” even including the rescinding of the current “commonwealth” status! Hence, while the current government in Puerto Rico is, officially, a separate political entity from the United States, the US is still the imperial overlord of the island. By extension, this means that the officially deemed US “territories” in Guam, American Samoa, US Virgin Islands, and Northern Marinas Islands are colonies, along with arguably Hawaii.26 Hence, for these “territories,” colonialism, rather than neocolonialism, is at work, a subset of imperialism.
Efforts by US imperialists to repress or weaken resistance was abundantly clear. The FBI, the secret “internal” police of the murderous empire, spent forty years (1936-1976) working to repress, disrupt, and surveil the independence movement (“independentista”) in Puerto Rico. This included surveillance of renowned nationalist leader Pedro Albizu Campos from 1936 until his death in 1965.27 Specifically, the FBI kept files, illegally, on 140,000 pro-independence individuals! Even Governor Marin, the founder of the Popular Democratic Party, and later pliant puppet leader, was originally under surveillance until the FBI changed its mind, trying to protect him from threats. Years later, FBI director Louis J. Freeh admitted that his agency engaged in “egregious illegal activity, maybe criminal action” and violated the civil rights of those on the island. This suppression was only part of the story. The island’s police, FBI, and US Army intelligence had dossiers on 100,000 Puerto Ricans, 75,000 who were under “political” surveillance. Apart from the police provocateurs who assassinated independentistas,15,000 Puerto Ricans (of the 75,000) had extensive police files for political activity.
There were other forms of US domination. In 1976, the US put in place Section 936 of the internal revenue code, which allowed US companies to operate on the island without paying any corporate taxes. This was released years later when there was a huge pharmaceutical boom on the island, and the provision was replaced by Section 30A, which had similar language, in 2006. In 1979, Jimmy Carter, trying to engage in a “significant humanitarian gesture” mainly to fend off criticism of the United States, commuted the sentences of four Puerto Rican nationalists who participated in the 1950 and 1954 actions, described in the next paragraph, saying they had served enough time in prison.28
Clearly, the FBI’s brutal streak did not end, with surveillance of Puerto Rican independence activists still occurring in 1995. Ten years later, in 2005, the FBI murdered a Puerto Rican independence leader named Ojeda Rios in a shootout.29 This outraged many islanders. The following year, the FBI engaged in violent raids on the island. And two years later, an FBI/NYPD anti-terrorism task force targeted three independentistas living in the US mainland, currently, handing them subpoenas.30 This clearly shows that the crackdown on independentistas has not ended in the slightest.
Such impositions were not met without resistance. In 1934, sugar workers went on strike, and gained a few wage concessions, one of the victories for the small island nation. Two years later, on February 23, 1936, Riggs, on the island to protect colonial investments, was killed by nationalist Elias Beauchamp, accompanied by Hiram Rosado, who were, in turn, murdered by police, within hours and without trial! This killing was one of the times that Puerto Ricans would engage in what Fanon called “counterviolence” and recognized that the “colonized men liberates himself in and through violence.”31 Flash forward to 1950. On October 30, there were uprisings in Ponce, Jayuya, Utado, Naranjito, and elsewhere, led by Campos. These uprisings were brutally crushed, some by National Guardsmen flying planes and firing down upon the crowd as ordered by Governor Martin, a reliable US puppet leader.32 The revolutionary spirit would not die. In 1950, two Puerto Rican nationalists struck at the heart of the empire: they attempted to kill President Truman.33 While the action was not successful, there was no doubt that the anti-colonial struggle by Puerto Ricans was connected to that of other peoples as Campos said before being arrested in 1950:
… it’s not easy to give a speech when we have our mother laying in bed and an assassin waiting to take your life… The assassin is the power of the United States of North America. One cannot give a speech while the newborn of our country are dying of hunger; while the adolescents of our homeland are being poisoned with the worst virus of them all, the virus of slavery… They must go to the United States to be the slaves of the economic powers, of the tyrants of our country… One cannot easily give a speech when this tyrant has the power to tear the sons right out of the hearts of Puerto Rico mothers to send to Korea, or into hell, to kill, to be the murderers of innocent Koreans, or to die covering a front for the Yankee enemies of our country, for them to return insane to their own people or for them to return mutilated beyond recognition… It’s not easy… We have called together here those who want the union of our brothers, of our Latin American brothers, and, very specially, the Cubans, all the people of the Antilles, the Haitians, the Dominicans, for all of them who love the independence of Puerto Rico as their very own, because as long as Puerto Rico is not free, every single one of those nations feels mutilated.
By the 1950s, the Puerto Rican Nationalist Party was starting to fade from the political landscape. By the 1960s, it was being replaced by armed revolutionary groups, like the Los Macheteras, with the latter engaging in counterviolence. In 1954, this was proven to be true when Campos led a group of 37 nationalists who fired on Congressmen from the house balcony, with many taken into custody after a two-hour gun battle.34 Campos would die years later, in 1965, after being tear gassed, tortured, and beaten in prison.35
By the 1960s, the equation was changing. Between 1955 and 1960, seventy-seven newly independent nations had been admitted to the UN, which formed an alliance to push for the adoption of resolution 1514 in the General Assembly in 1960. The resolution, initially proposed by Nikita S. Khrushchev of the USSR, declared that the “colonial situation in all its forms and manifestations” had to be remedied, with eighty-nine countries voting in favor. There were only nine abstentions (and no votes against) by the U.K., US, Western-backed apartheid South Africa, Portugal, Spain, Belgium, France, Australia, and the Dominican Republic, then controlled by the US-backed Rafael Trujillo. The latter was assassinated in 1961, with the CIA, without consent of the State Department, giving the assassins rifles and other firearms, as noted in pages 70-85 of the Rockefeller Commission’s report in 1975.
In the US, with the development of the “New Left”, social movements began to gain steam. The Young Lords Party, originally a gang in Chicago, re-organized itself as a pro-Puerto Rican organization, in 1968, that took a strong anti-imperialist position. In their principles, they argued that they had been colonized for five hundred years, first by Spain, then the United States, making them the “slaves of the gringo” and rejecting Puerto Rican rulers who were “puppets of the oppressor… who keep our communities peaceful for business,” instead of pushing for a socialist society, and ultimately against machismo, a fundamentally feminist position.
Like the Black Panthers, they supported armed self-defense and had free breakfast programs to support the community while increasing their base of support. In 1969, the Black Panthers reached out to them, the Brown Berets fighting for Chicano liberation, and anti-racist Young Patriots who tried to support young, white migrants who came from Appalachia, to create the first “rainbow coalition.” The name of the coalition was later taken by black opportunist Jesse Jackson, Jr. in a failed effort to run for the Democratic Party’s presidential nomination and push for political reforms. Years later, the Lords changed their name to the Puerto Rican Revolutionary Workers Organization (PRRWO), pushed for a revolutionary party, and fell apart in 1975 after FBI disruption, infighting and other factors.
The Puerto Ricans are not alone. Starting in 1972, the UN Special Committee on Decolonization (The Committee of 24) condemned the status of Puerto Rico, recognizing that the Commonwealth status is untenable, with US investors getting preferential treatment, and that the island should be independent from the supposedly “benign empire” of the United States. Due to the more than 33 resolutions calling for Puerto Rico’s independence by the Committee of 24 since 1972, building off of resolution 1514, it has been tarred by the US. In 1968, only five years into its existence, US diplomats declared that the Committee had become “anti-Western” because it criticized US imperialism and supported “independentistas” in Puerto Rico. Such criticism didn’t stop the Committee. Recently, the Committee concluded that the US violated Puerto Rico’s right to self-determination to be an independent nation. Specifically, representatives from Cuba, Nicaragua, Ecuador, and Iran have talked about independence for the island nation and relinquishing US colonial rule, with some witnesses talking about how the island was illegally taken and under corporate control. Latin America clearly did not abandon the island. Nicolas Maduro of Venezuela, former Argentine President Cristina Kirchner, and Raul Castro of Cuba have all supported the island’s independence.
Other organizations that have argued for independence include the Non-Aligned Movement and the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC) founded by Latin American states in Carcas, Venezuela in 2011. Clearly, the Democratic and Republican parties, along with the island’s two major political parties (The Popular Democratic Party and the New Progressive Party) do not support independence.36 The island’s governors, under the constitution of the Puerto Rican “commonwealth,” five from the Popular Democratic Party (Luis Muñoz Marín, Roberto Sánchez Vilella, Rafael Hernández Colón, Sila Calderón, and Aníbal Salvador Acevedo Vilá) who want to maintain the current status of the island, five from the New Progressive Party (Luis A. Ferré, Carlos Romero Barceló, Pedro Rosselló, Luis Fortuño, Alejandro García Padilla, and newly elected Ricky Rosselló), who want the island to be a US state, have stayed within acceptable bourgeois opinion. While some may be liberal and others conservative, through all eleven of the governors, there has been concentration of corporate power on the island and maintenance of the colonial relationship. While some could claim the referendum in 2012 “solved” the status of the island, less than half supported statehood, with most, instead, wanting a change to the status quo.
In 1975, when Cuba pushed to give special status for the island for the Puerto Rican independence movement, the US balked with anger. Such a response is predictable. Deep down, the imperialists of the US are afraid of Puerto Rican independence. If the country became independent, it is possible that Vieques couldn’t become a bombing range again, the US couldn’t store nuclear weapons there, plan for strikes on Cuba, use the island to intercept “enemy” signals, and so on.37 Even some diplomats tried to say that if the island is separated from the US, the residents would be jeopardizing their “paramount interests in economic, social, education… [and] political matters.” This is reflexively talking about what US and foreign capitalists would lose, instead of referring to the real needs of Puerto Ricans.
The question remains: where do we stand now? Undoubtedly, the coverage of the island by the bourgeois media focuses on “unpayable debt.” The island is, as writer Nelson Denis argued (with likely feminist implications), the “battered spouse of the Caribbean.” An article last fall by Linda Backiel, in the Monthly Review, is vital in explaining the current situation. She writes that the dire straits of the island, $73 billion of debt, is not a surprise, since it has been “sacked by colonial powers for half of a millennium.” She goes on to say that IMF officials were paid $400,000 to make recommendations about the island’s economic crisis, which is ridiculous considering that the island has no access to financing from the World Bank, IMF, or elsewhere because it is a colony. Backiel adds that Article VI, section 8 of the island’s constitution, payment of interest and debt is the first priority, coupled with the country “running on bonds” held by US banks such as Morgan Stanley, JP Morgan, and Bank of America, along with numerous venture and hedge funds.
She then writes that “the vultures are circling” the small island nation, with the island in crisis, even as human misery caused by colonialism is ignored and over 45% of the people live below the poverty line, with the country seeming on the verge of economic collapse. If this occurs, it could threaten the “propaganda value” of the island and its economy, destroyed in part by the collaboration of the pro-statehood New Progressive Party and US Congress, leaving the Popular Democratic Party to “clean up” the mess. She closes by saying “in the battle between soul and capital, who will win? Until the people of Puerto Rico organize to defend their soul; it is not even a stalemate: Black is playing with nothing but pawns.” Other accounts affirm this assessment of the situation in Puerto Rico.38
In the most recent election cycle, the island’s precarious state got some play. Bernie Sanders, the “nice” imperialist running for the Democratic nomination, declared in June of this year that the US cannot “continue a colonial-like relationship with the people of Puerto Rico,” and saying he would offer it three options: becoming a state, enhancing its territorial rights, or becoming an independent country, which is no different than the previous plebiscites ordered by the US government.39 Predictably, he didn’t mention Resolution 1514, the efforts of the Committee of 24, or actions by Puerto Ricans to engage in counterviolence, instead posing himself as a “savior” of the island, an act of racist and imperialist positioning.
Jill Stein of the Green Party had a similar statement on the subject; however, she more clearly called out colonial exploitation, even calling for a bailout of the island.40
What Vladimir Lenin wrote in 1917 in his book, Imperialism: The Highest Stage of Capitalism is relevant here, as related to the island’s debt and plans for “restructuring.” Lenin writes that concentration of production leads to monopoly especially in the US, which was described, even then, as an “advanced country of modern capitalism.”41 In the island nation, the spreading of monopoly, specifically of “monopolist combines of big capitalists” or “gigantic monopolist combines” into every sphere of life would likely get a boost under a Trump administration.42 If he follows his cost-benefit formulation of “solving” the world’s problems, he would support debt restructuring, but let the “bondholders take a hit.” Even if this sounds “anti-business,” it is likely that his plan, whatever that is, would move away from the populist rhetoric and benefit the same economic actors, reinforcing the “world system of colonial oppression” manifested in capitalism, with “world marauders” like the United States “armed to the teeth.”43 It is also possible the newly-elected Puerto Rico Governor Rosselló will clash with Trump, but what happens in that realm remains to be seen.
At the present, Puerto Rico stands at a crossroads. US control of the island, which has never enjoyed real sovereignty, arguably led to a colonial mentality where Puerto Ricans feel they cannot engage in true self-rule, despite a strong nationalist sentiment. As a result, due to economic dependence on the US, and 25% unemployment, many are not supportive of independence from the US. These feelings are reinforced by existing assimilation showing that people haven’t been decolonized, with the possible compromise of Puerto Rican strong identity and culture. With the advent of neoliberal policies on the island, accommodationist Puerto Rican leaders, as described earlier, and blatant efforts to tamp down demands for independence, it hasn’t got any better.
According to the most recent report by the military establishment in September, there are 142 military personnel, 7,598 reservists, and 1,922 civilian personnel, coming to a total of 9,662!44 Such personnel are clearly used as a way of asserting colonial dominance. Still, Puerto Ricans have not remained silent, with continuing resistance to colonial rule. One example of this would be the student strikes which shut down the university system in the country and were repressed brutally. Either the status quo of neoliberal and capitalist exploitation can remain, or there can be a challenge and destruction to the existing colonial system, ending over 520 years of colonial rule (1493-2016) by the Spanish, then the United States. That is the choice at hand.
There is no doubt that Puerto Rico should be freed from colonial shackles of the murderous empire and its corporate clients. Negotiation may lead to a situation of neocolonialism, like in a number of African countries, where a national bourgeoisie on the island is subservient to the US, not changing the existing relationship between the US and the island nation. While the Puerto Rican people ultimately have to decide their fate, it is clear that decolonization, when part of a real liberation struggle, is “always a violent event,” as Fanon put it, where the colonized masses engage in violence, such as guerrilla warfare, to push for the demolition of the colonial system and allow for the emergence of a new nation.45 In the current economic situation, such counterviolence, which undermines the role of the US as “barons of international capitalism” and demands the independence of island from the imperial behemoth, could erupt once again.46
As one stands in solidarity with Puerto Rico in resisting “a monster where the flaws, sickness and inhumanity of Europe have reached frightening proportions,” what Fanon wrote in 1961 is apt to this island nation at the crossroads: “we must shake off the great mantle of night which has enveloped upon us, and reach for the light. The new day which is dawning must find us determined, enlightened and resolute.”47
- Stephen Kinzer, Overthrow: America’s History of Regime Change from Hawaii to Iraq (New York: Henry Holt & Company, 2006), 45. [↩]
- Francisco Scarano, “The Origins of Plantation Growth in Puerto Rico,” Caribbean Slave Society and Economy (ed. Hilary Beckles and Verene Shepherd, New York: The New Press, 1991), 57-59. [↩]
- Scarano, 56-58. [↩]
- Scarano, 58-60, 61, 63-64, 66. [↩]
- Scarano, 62-65. [↩]
- Howard Zinn, A People’s History of the United States: 1492 to Present (New York: HarperCollins, 2003, Fifth Edition), 532. This was not done without resistance in Puerto Rico, in terms of slave revolts, in the 1520s and 1530s. [↩]
- Scarano, 66. French abolition of slavery in its colonies in 1794 (while re-established in Haiti in 1802 by Napoleon in failed attempt to stop revolution, which succeeded in 1804 after twelve years) set off panic among Puerto Rican planters. [↩]
- Kinzer, 44. [↩]
- Ibid. [↩]
- Kinzer, 45. [↩]
- Kinzer, 44 [↩]
- Kinzer, 45, 46, 48, 70, 80; Zinn, 312, 408; Ziaudin Sardar and Merryl Wyn Davies, Why Do People Hate America? (New York: The Disinformation Company, 2002), 43. [↩]
- Kinzer, 91. [↩]
- Frantz Fanon, The Wretched of the Earth (New York: Grove Press, 2004 reprint, originally published in 1961, 14. [↩]
- Kinzer, 91-92. [↩]
- Kinzer, 92. [↩]
- Kinzer, 92, 104, 107, 108, 215, 300. [↩]
- Anti-abortion activists have even used this to criticize Planned Parenthood, with a lawyer for such a group, Casey Mattox, writing that Planned Parenthood worked with the government of Puerto Rico to sterilize women, which was not voluntary, and was a major part of the island’s sterilization program. Of course, Mattox uses it to argue against contraceptive use instead of developing it into a criticism of US imperialism.
- Some have argued that feminists on the US mainland too often framed the discussion around the idea that “Puerto Rican women are victimized and need to be saved,” denying the action of Puerto Rican feminists in support of the measure, and deny the possibility of “Puerto Rican feminist agency” (see pages 31-34 of Laura Briggs’s “Discourses of ‘Forced Sterilization’ in Puerto Rico: The Problem with the Speaking Subaltern”). Be that as it may, parts of this argument come very close to apology for US imperial and colonial action, such as imposed sterilization. Saying this does not deny that Puerto Rican women didn’t act in their best interests and engaged in sterilization in order to improve their own conditions. However, as said in the article, women had little choice but to engage in this procedure, so they didn’t even have “agency,” a word also used to throw off certain analysis, especially of a radical kind, or free choice to engage in all possible birth control measures if they wished to do so. [↩]
- William Blum, Rogue State (Monroe, ME: Common Courage Press, 2000), 98. [↩]
- Blum-Ibid. [↩]
- Kinzer, 92-93. [↩]
- Jack Woodis, Introduction to Neo-Colonialism:The New Imperialism in Asia, Africa, & Latin America (New York: International Publishers, 1969, second printing, originally published in 1967), 13, 16, 28, 32-33, 43-47, 49, 58, 61, 68-69. [↩]
- Woddis, 50, 68-69. [↩]
- The Court’s majority opinion, written by “liberal” Justice Elena Kagan, declared in flowery words that the colonial relationship is “unique” and built on the “island’s evolution into a constitutional democracy exercising local self-rule,” while admitting that the US Congress stripped the Puerto Rican constitution of social democratic qualities before it was approved since US colonies are “not sovereigns distinct from the United States” as noted on pages 2, 3, 10-11, 15 of the decision. Even Stephen Breyer, who accepted that federal power was the governing authority over US states and colonies, posited the “self-rule” argument, claiming that the island was self-ruling, citing numerous sources including the horrid Resolution 748. The dissenting opinion of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg did not not challenge, fundamentally, the court’s ruling, only saying that the matter warrants attention to future cases. Clarence Thomas had a similar opinion, only saying that he felt the decision would be a negative precedent on law governing indigenous peoples in the United States.
- The US also controls uninhabited islands in the Pacific including Baker Island, Howland Island, Jarvis Island, Johnston Atoll, Kingman Reef, Midway Atoll, Navassa Island, Palmyra Atoll, and Wake Island. They could be effectively considered part of the US colonial system.
- The FBI began its close attention on the island in 1936 when a local US attorney said that Campos was publishing articles insulting the US and giving “public speeches in favor of independence.” His influence was so widely recognized that when he refused to go to his parole officer, the Roosevelt administration didn’t order him back to prison for fear that there would be unrest on the island.
- In September 1999, Bill Clinton would commute the sentences of eleven Puerto Rican nationalists, which sparked anger among police officers, numerous leading Democrats, and numerous Republicans. Not surprisingly, Hillary Clinton opposed this move, expressing her opposition.
- See articles on this from Democracy Now!, USA Today, Associated Press, and Socialist Worker just for examples of differing reactions among those on the internet. [↩]
- From 1936 to 1995, the FBI generated 1.5 to 1.8 million pages on Puerto Rican independence activists! [↩]
- Fanon, 44, 47. [↩]
- Sardar and Davies, 96. [↩]
- Chronicle of America (Mount Kisco, NY: Chronicle Publications, 1988), 755, 758. The surviving man from this action, who was not killed in a gun battle with police officers, was sentenced to life imprisonment instead of being killed. [↩]
- Chronicle of America, 765. [↩]
- Laura Briggs, wrote in her article, as mentioned in an earlier footnote, that Campos was opposed to radicals who pushed for birth control on the island (along with independence), started by the Puerto Rican Socialist Party, and other efforts. This, in and of itself, would not be surprising, as machismo is widely cemented in many Latin American societies and reflected itself in liberation struggles. Despite this major flaw, it still worth recognizing his struggle in resisting US colonialism on the island nation of Puerto Rico, making him a hero to many. [↩]
- Politically, the Republicans would likely oppose statehood due to the large number of Puerto Ricans voting for the Democratic Party in presidential elections. [↩]
- In 1977, some diplomats claimed that the US could not place nuclear weapons on the island if it became a state. Whether this is actually true is not known.
- See articles on The Real News, The Hill, Democracy Now!, Telesur English, Mother Jones, Common Dreams, and Dissident Voice, of course
- Sanders is also on record for rejecting the neoliberal debt restructuring in place. However, due to his imperialist stance on foreign policy, there is no guarantee his debt restructuring would be any better overall.
- The Green Party of the United States has a plank on their platform declaring that the people of the island have the right to self-determination and independence, release of Puerto Rican political prisoners, environmental cleanup of Vieques, that the island’s debt is “unpayable” and that decolonization had to be supported as the “first step for the Puerto Rican people to live in a democracy.” Even the Communist Party USA, a political party that became rightist after the Hungarian “Revolution” in 1956 and with its call for a left-liberal inclusive coalition against the right-wing in the US instead of actively organizing people for socialism, declared in its 2006 “Road to Socialism” that the island nation composes an “oppressed national minority” who are mostly working class, dependent on the US, and says there needs to be a “free and independent Puerto Rico.” This is even further left, strangely enough, then the Socialist Party USA. In their recent platform, the party only calls for Guam, Puerto Rico, indigenous nations, and D.C. to have congressional representation, the similar to a position held by the Democratic Party. [↩]
- Vladimir Lenin, Imperialism: The Highest Stage of Capitalism (New York: International Publishers, 1972 reprint of 1939 English translation, originally published in 1917), 16-17, 20, 22, 32. [↩]
- Lenin, 25, 28, 31, 35, 58, 60, 62, 82. [↩]
- Lenin, 10-11. [↩]
- The “Military and Civilian Personnel by Service/Agency by State/Country (Updated Quarterly)” excel spreadsheet report from September 2016 is used here. That’s around the same number of personnel in the state of Delaware, which isn’t a colony in the slightest (although it is occupied indigenous land), which is telling. [↩]
- Fanon, 1, 10, 26, 30. [↩]
- Fanon, 38. [↩]
- Fanon, 235-237. [↩]
Who will rid me of this junk science?
The latest attempt to prove that tornadoes are becoming more extreme:
Tornadoes and severe thunderstorms kill people and damage property every year. Estimated U.S. insured losses due to severe thunderstorms in the first half of 2016 were 8.5 billion USD. The largest U.S. impacts of tornadoes result from tornado outbreaks, which are sequences of tornadoes that occur in close succession. Here, using extreme value analysis, we find that the frequency of U.S. outbreaks with many tornadoes is increasing and is increasing faster for more extreme outbreaks. We model this behavior by extreme value distributions with parameters that are linear functions of time or of some indicators of multidecadal climatic variability. Extreme meteorological environments associated with severe thunderstorms show consistent upward trends, but the trends do not resemble those currently expected to result from global warming.
As any proper expert on tornadoes knows, many more tornadoes get to be reported nowadays, simply because of changes in reporting procedures.
McCarthy & Schaefer explained this fully in their paper, TORNADO TRENDS OVER THE PAST THIRTY YEARS, which they wrote in 2003:
This paper looks at the reported frequencies of tornadoes and their characteristics over the contiguous United States since 1970. There was a significant increase in tornado occurrence during two periods in the last 33 years – in the early 1980s when National Weather Service (NWS) warning verification began, and in 1990 when the WSR-88D [Dopppler] became operational…..
The years 1950-1969 were a growth period because it was the start of the public awareness and communication revolution that gave tornadoes increased publicity due to television news coverage and graphic depictions of tornadoes and tornado damage….
The increase in reported tornado frequency during the early 1990s corresponds to the operational implementation of Doppler weather radars. Other non-meteorological factors that must be considered when looking at the increase in reported tornado frequency over the past 33 years are the advent of cellular telephones; the development of spotter networks by NWS offices, local emergency management officials, and local media; and population shifts…..
The growing “hobby” of tornado chasing has also contributed to the increasing number of reported tornadoes. The capability to easily photograph tornadoes with digital photography, camcorders, and even cell phone cameras not only provides documentation of many weak tornadoes, but also, on occasion, shows the presence of multiple tornadoes immediately adjacent to each other.
When these weaker tornadoes are stripped out, it is clear that there is a declining trend of stronger tornadoes.
This Tippett paper defines a tornado outbreak as one containing at least six tornadoes. But given that more tornadoes are now reported than in earlier decades, it is inevitable that more such outbreaks are now being recorded, and that they will tend to have a higher number on average.
Indeed, McCarthy’s comment “shows the presence of multiple tornadoes immediately adjacent to each other”, is particularly relevant. Prior to the use of mobile phones and Doppler, many of these would have simply been lumped together as just one big tornado.
This paper seems to be a classic case of a team of scientists, who appear to have little knowledge of the subject, using computer models to arrive at a preordained conclusion.
With 13 known fatalities and nearly a thousand buildings and structures destroyed in the tragic Tennessee fires, the usual climate ambulance chasers are out in force blaming, you guessed it, man-made “climate change”!
The hysterical Guardian
Author John Abraham notes “The causes of drought are combinations of lowered precipitation and higher temperatures.”
This is a no-brainer, however it is grossly dishonest to blame so-called, man-made climate change as the root cause of the fires based on “many weeks of weather (warm and dry) that have led to the current conditions.”
Climate change is measured over multi-decadal periods, usually over a 30 year period or ‘climate point’, not over “many weeks” as the Guardian ferments.
Abraham deliberately focuses on the “many weeks” time-scale because a longer look at Tennessee’s climate history wrecks his CO2-induced, man-made climate change theory…
Tennessee temperature record shows no
global warming climate change trend…
Tennessee has been getting wetter…
Tennessee is currently experiencing a bad drought as the Guardian correctly identifies
But, how severe is this drought historically? And, is it due to human
CO2 carbon emissions or simply, natural cycles in climate?
Before WW2, the time period that the IPCC claims CO2-emissions were yet to have an effect on climate, the US experienced more severe drought.
In the low-CO2 (309 ppm) year of July 1934, 80% of the US was in severe to extreme drought…
By November, 50% of the US remained in severe to extreme drought…
Finally, and the most glaring example of the hysterical Guardian’s dishonesty to its readership, is the simple fact that as CO2 has been increasing, the “Numbers of [Tennessee] wildfires have been trending downward since the late 1970’s.” !
This is why “fake news” organisations like The Guardian, CNN, ABC, The Age, The Sydney Morning Herald, NYTimes, Washington Post, BBC et al., cannot be trusted on anything related to
global warming climate change.
They are not interested in “the science” that they and fellow climate alarmists claim to own, rather, their primary interest lies in misinforming readers and viewers with cherry-picked propaganda to further their political goals and ideological agenda.
And to dear John Abraham, “belief” and “denial” are the words of zealots, not scientists.
Those who continue to slime with the “denier” meme, in a vile reference to “Holocaust denial” (designed to intimidate and isolate) indicate they’ve run out of arguments, and slurs are all they have left. The historical climate data above, that took 10 minutes to source, exposes this.
Climatism extends its condolences to the victims and their families and all those effected by the Tennessee wildfires.
The trappings of science can be decoupled from the actual rigor of science.
The trigger for this post is a recent article in the Atlantic, entitled How Will Trump Use Science to Further His Political Agenda? The article provides some important insights, that are worth discussing in context of the climate debate and the politicization of climate science. Excerpts:
Of all the memorable lines from this year’s election, the one I keep returning to months later is from Hillary Clinton’s acceptance speech at the Democratic National Convention. “And I believe in science,” she said, as she pivoted to climate change. She giggled. The crowd roared. Isn’t it absurd she had to say she believed in science? And most smug of all: Hillary, science is not a belief.
Clinton’s appeal to science as a partisan rallying cry . . . was clearly in response to the mockery of Trump and his supporters as “anti-science.” But “anti-science” is a dangerously simplistic label.
The trappings of science can be decoupled from the actual rigor of science. Stephen Colbert, who famously coined “truthiness,” less famously also came up with “factiness.” If “truthiness” is a feeling of truth with a disregard for the facts, then “factiness” is using actual facts to paint a misleading truth.
Factiness is the taste for the feel and aesthetic of “facts,” often at the expense of missing the truth. From silly self-help-y TED talks to wrapping ourselves in the misleading scientism of Fivethirtyeight statistics, factiness is obsessing over and covering ourselves in fact after fact while still missing bigger truths.
I’ll suggest that factiness doesn’t actually cleave neatly across the left and the right. It’s an outgrowth of our cognitive biases. We often make decisions emotionally, sometimes based on tribal affiliations; then we marshall the facts that prove us right while discarding the ones that prove us wrong. As such, throwing more facts at climate deniers hasn’t convinced them.
Factiness is why using the veneer of science to rationalize an idea is dangerous, making the idea appear more justified than it really is. It is pro-science in appearance, but anti-science in spirit.
In theory, science provides an objective framework for finding truths about the world. But in practice, science is conducted by humans with biases, often blind to them. To ignore how the practice of science is intertwined with politics is to be blind, in turn, to the coming changes. As a President Trump pulls the discourse in his direction, the ground will shift slowly but surely shift underneath our feet. It’s harder to recognize in the very beginning, when the ground has only shifted ever so slightly.
[read the Atlantic article for a fascinating and disturbing example of how science was used to support the Bush administration’s torture program in the early 2000s.]
I’ve previously used the concept of ‘truthiness’ in discussing why climate modelers believe their climate models [link]. But before delving into truthiness and factiness in the climate debate, a digression is needed to provide a context for understand what science is, and what a ‘fact’ is.
I’ve written many previous posts on Scientific method and Sociology of science. Why so many posts on these topics? Because these are exceedingly complex issues, especially in context of the huge scientific complexity of global climate change.
As per the Wikipedia (which has good summary on this topic):
A fact is something that has really occurred or is actually true. The usual test for a statement of fact is verifiability—that is, whether it can be demonstrated to correspond to experience.
Fact is sometimes used synonymously with truth, as distinct from opinions, falsehoods, or matters of taste. Fact may also indicate findings derived through a process of evaluation, including review of testimony, direct observation, or otherwise; as distinguishable from matters of inference or speculation. Facts may be checked by reason, experiment, personal experience, or may be argued from authority.
In science, a fact is a repeatable careful observation or measurement (by experimentation or other means), also called empirical evidence. Facts are central to building scientific theories. Various forms of observation and measurement lead to fundamental questions about the scientific method, and the scope and validity of scientific reasoning.
In the most basic sense, a scientific fact is an objective and verifiable observation, in contrast with a hypothesis or theory, which is intended to explain or interpret facts.
Scholars and clinical researchers in both the social and natural sciences have written about numerous questions and theories that arise in the attempt to clarify the fundamental nature of scientific fact. Pertinent issues raised by this inquiry include: the process by which “established fact” becomes recognized and accepted as such; whether and to what extent “fact” and “theoretic explanation” can be considered truly independent and separable from one another; to what extent “facts” are influenced by the mere act of observation; and to what extent factual conclusions are influenced by history and consensus, rather than a strictly systematic methodology.
What are the facts in the climate science debate?
- Average global surface temperatures have overall increased for the past 100+ years
- Carbon dioxide has an infrared emission spectra
- Humans have been adding carbon dioxide to the atmosphere.
That is pretty much it, in terms of verifiable, generally agreed upon scientific facts surrounding the major elements of climate change debate.
Human caused global warming is a theory. The assertion that human caused global warming is dangerous is an hypothesis. The assertion that nearly all or most of the warming since 1950 has been caused by humans is disputed by many scientists, in spite of the highly confident consensus statement by the IPCC. The issue of ‘dangerous’ climate change is wrapped up in values, and science has next to nothing to say about this.
Truthiness and factiness abounds in the climate science debate, and the greatest proponents of truthiness and factiness are the climate ‘alarmed’ – their opponents are mostly calling b.s. on their truthiness and factiness. In slinging around terms like denier, anti-science etc, the defense of climate alarmism in terms of ‘science’ and ‘facts’ starts to become more anti-science than what they are accusing their opponents of.
From the Rational Wiki:
The term “antiscience” refers to persons or organizations that promote their ideology over scientifically-verified evidence, usually either by denying said evidence and/or creating their own. Antiscience positions are promoted especially when political ideology and/or religious dogma conflict with actual science.
The most glaring ‘factiness’ and anti-science strategy is the linking of extreme weather events to human caused climate change. Roger Pielke Jr has an eloquent op-ed in the WSJ (unfortunately behind paywall, which I will have more to say about in another post next week).
So . . . who fits the definition of ‘anti-science’? Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump? Ignoring science (Trump) does not qualify him for ‘anti-science’. Science does not prescribe public policy. The political dogma of Obama, Clinton and Pope Francis surrounding climate change seems like more of a recipe for ‘anti-science.’
The Washington Post (11/24/16) last week published a front-page blockbuster that quickly went viral: Russia-promoted “fake news” had infiltrated the newsfeeds of 213 million Americans during the election, muddying the waters in a disinformation scheme to benefit Donald Trump. Craig Timberg’s story was based on a “report” from an anonymous group (or simply a person, it’s unclear) calling itself PropOrNot that blacklisted over 200 websites as agents or assets of the Russian state.
The obvious implication was that an elaborate Russian psyop had fooled the public into voting for Trump based on a torrent of misleading and false information posing as news. Everyone from Bloomberg’s Sahil Kupar to CNN’s to Robert Reich to Anne Navarro to MSNBC’s Joy Ann Reid tweeted out the story in breathless tones. Center for American Progress and Clinton advocate Neera Tanden even did her best Ron Paul YouTube commenter impression, exclaiming, “Wake up people.”
But the story didn’t stand up to the most basic scrutiny. Follow-up reporting cast major doubt on the Washington Post’s core claims and underlying logic, the two primary complaints being 1) the “research group” responsible for the meat of the story, PropOrNot, is an anonymous group of partisans (if more than one person is involved) who tweet like high schoolers, and 2) the list of supposed Russian media assets, because its criteria for Russian “fake news” encompasses “useful idiots,” includes entirely well-within-the-mainstream progressive and libertarian websites such as Truth-Out, Consortium News, TruthDig and Antiwar.com (several of whom are now considering lawsuits against PropOrNot for libel).
PropOrNot says their criteria for “Russian propaganda” is “behavioral” and “motivation-agnostic,” so even those who publish views that simply coincide with the Russian government’s, regardless of intent or actual links to Russia, are per se Kremlin assets—an absurd metric that casts a net so wide as to render the concept meaningless.
Glenn Greenwald and Ben Norton of The Intercept (11/26/16) called PropOrNot “amateur peddlers of primitive, shallow propagandistic clichés” who were “engaging in extremely dubious McCarthyite tactics about a wide range of critics and dissenters.” Fortune magazine’s Matthew Ingram (11/25/16) insisted the report had the “beginnings of a conspiracy theory, rather than a scientific analysis,” while AlterNet’s Max Blumenthal (11/26/16) lamented that “insiders have latched onto a McCarthyite campaign that calls for government investigations of a wide array of alternative media outlets.”
As Matt Taibbi wrote in Rolling Stone (11/28/16):
The vast majority of reporters would have needed to see something a lot more concrete than a half-assed theoretical paper from such a dicey source before denouncing 200 news organizations as traitors.
Almost everyone outside of the Washington Post who critically examined the list concluded it was at best shoddy and ill-considered, and at worst a deliberate attempt to encourage a chilling effect on Russia-related reporting. That a group of Cold Warrior hacks would publish such a blacklist is not a surprise; that one of the most established names in American news would uncritically parrot it was. Its reporting, writing-up and referencing is a prime example of how fake real news on real fake news spreads without question.
USA Today (11/25/16), Gizmodo (11/25/16), PBS (11/25/16), The Daily Beast (11/25/16), Slate (11/25/16), AP (11/25/16) The Verge (11/25/16) and NPR (11/25/16) all uncritically wrote up the Post’s most incendiary claims with little or minimal pushback. Gizmodo was so giddy its original headline had to be changed from “Research Confirms That Russia Played a Major Role in Spreading Fake News” to “Research Suggests That Russia Played a Major Role in Spreading Fake News,” presumably after some polite commenters pointed out that the research “confirmed” nothing of the sort.
“Um ‘stories planted or promoted by the Russian disinformation campaign were viewed 213 million times,’” New York Times deputy Washington editor Jonathan Weisman (11/24/16) tweeted out to the tune of 2,800 retweets. But the report didn’t show this at all. There was no methodology provided, nor was there any consideration by Weisman that that “213 million” figure of Russian “fake news” included, for example, the third-most popular news site in the United States, the Drudge Report.
Drudge not only has no funding or backing from Putin, but predates his administration by several years. But because Drudge occasionally publishes stories that make the US look bad in relation to Russia, and because PropOrNot’s “useful idiots” criterion is “motivation-agnostic,” its entire footprint has become a “Russian disinformation campaign.” Did Weisman know this? Did he care?
As reports debunking or discrediting The List came out, the story continued to spread. Joy Ann Reid (Daily Beast, 11/27/16) alluded to the PropOrNot story to bolster her claim that there was an “alarming consensus of experts” that Russia interfered in the US election by “pumping of fake news and propaganda into the country’s digital bloodstream,” despite no such consensus existing. On Monday, Business Insider (11/28/16) insisted that PropOrNot’s “methods uncover some connections that merit consideration,” while citing only two examples and ignoring all of the major objections advanced by Greenwald, Taibbi et al. Rachel Maddow’s popular blog (MSNBC, 11/28/16) added another breathless write-up hours later, repeating the catchy talking point that “it was like Russia was running a super PAC for Trump’s campaign.”
Despite respected media critics taking the report to task, the Post’s spurious claims are being cemented as conventional wisdom, all the while the writer of the story and his editor refuse to answer direct criticism or reveal who this anonymous person or persons is. What are their motives? Who are their funders? Why is “useful idiot” being propped up by a major news outlet as a useful distinction? Why weren’t those on the blacklist asked to comment? Despite numerous inquiries by The Intercept, Rolling Stone and The Nation (11/28/16), all these questions remain unanswered.
One would think reports on “fake news” would themselves be held to the highest possible editorial standards, if not out of some instinctual desire to avoid high doses of irony and cognitive dissonance, at least to shield against charges of blatant hypocrisy. But increasingly, as the moral panic surrounding “fake news” reaches fever pitch, the standards of skepticism and sourcing employed by some of our most trusted news sources have inversely sunk to tabloid levels.
Adam Johnson is a contributing analyst for FAIR.org. You can follow him on Twitter at @AdamJohnsonNYC.
The group Roots Action has a petition up calling for a retraction of the blacklist story: “Tell the Washington Post: Smearing Is Not Reporting.”
The British Labour party voted down a motion seeking to hold former UK prime minister Tony Blair accountable for misleading parliament during the run up to the 2003 Iraq War by 439 votes to 70 earlier this week. Many would have shared the disappointment expressed by Alex Salmond, former leader of the Scottish National Party (SNP), who put the motion forward.
Commenting on the overwhelming defeat, he said: “This vote demonstrates that those who voted against this cross-party motion have failed to learn any lessons from history and from the Chilcot report. It is like deja vu, it was the Tory and Labour front-benches that took us into the illegal war and it is the Tory and Labour front-benches again who have failed to hold the former prime minister to account.”
It has become clear, if it wasn’t already, that parliament is very unlikely to vote for any measure that would hold Blair and the British government to account for the Iraq invasion. Newly released documents revealing that the Chilcot inquiry itself was designed to “avoid blame” and reduce the risk to individuals and the government facing legal proceedings, is further proof that the British state is more interested in burying mistakes in layers of bureaucracy, and is not very troubled by accusations of war crimes.
The fact that the campaign to hold Blair to account has been fruitless, thus far, should not surprise anyone. It’s simply another reflection of powerful institutions, including nation states, avoiding scrutiny. Institutions and individuals of great power, despite commonly held notions of rule of law and transparency, operate in spaces that are beyond the rule of law. Though there is much to be said about the impunity gap that exists in the way powerful states operate, this is yet another example of a colonial hangover.
At play also is the misplaced belief that the office of the British prime minister, a standard bearer of democracy, freedom and human rights, is incorruptible. Blair may have been economical with the truth – he may have even misled parliament – but there is no way the former prime minister behaved in a manner warranting impeachment, or so the logic of the powerful goes.
Tyrants behave this way – it is a characteristic of third world countries and illiberal democracies. However, be that as it may, the Prime Minster of Great Britain has to be safeguarded from such opprobrium. Few would have failed to recognise the Orientalist undertone, whereby third world and developing economies are lectured on principles that are not applied in the liberal, democratic West.
The reality of course is that the case against Tony Blair is far more compelling than Mr Blair’s case was for bombing Iraq. Going to war, we are told, is the toughest decision an MP makes. Their decision is made on conviction not doubt, and least of all lies and plagiarised reports presented as facts. Or so we are led to believe.
And yet, when presented with facts that leave no doubt and no ambiguity that Mr Blair had indeed misled government in making his case for war, the same MPs are unmoved. One has to say they are unconcerned about righting the grave mistake which they helped bring about and the British parliament has learnt little if anything from Iraq.
MPs that voted down this motion were likely of the opinion, mentioned repeatedly during the parliamentary debate, that the Chilcot report is sufficient as an exercise in government accountability. They believe that setting new processes and tweaking institutions of government and setting up new checks and balances through the creation of a national security council will add a layer of protection and steer parliament’s decision-making to better effect.
These steps, however, will not ensure that Iraq does not happen again. Putting aside the fact that Britain also foolishly bombed Libya and ousted Colonel Gaddafi, there is a lot that could be said about this false hope, not least that it does not address the fact that another charismatic and ambitious prime minister who is hell-bent on going to war will still be able to create the conditions that could persuade MPs to vote for an illegal war. During the debate, Salmond challenged the Cabinet Secretary as to whether any of the changes that were implemented to protect against another Iraq scenario would have made a difference had they existed in the build-up to the Iraq War, his response was an emphatic “no”.
To the millions that have died as a direct result of the decision to go to war and the millions more that continue to be gravely impacted, tweaking decision-making process to avoid future injustice is less of a concern than seeking justice. They would not have failed to notice that a parliament that was so easily convinced over the most serious of all decisions – to wage war – was so readily willing to close the door to accountability. I suspect that unlike most of the MPs who voted in line with their party, they read the report by the Cambridge academic Dr Glen Rangwala.
Titled fittingly “The deliberate deception of parliament”, the report was the basis of many of the charges levelled at Mr Blair. In it, Dr Rangwala unequivocally shows that the former prime minster made statements that were untrue and deliberately misled parliament.
The academic contrasted Blair’s parliamentary statements with promises and statements he made to former US president George Bush and senior members of his cabinet. Citing numerous email exchanges between Blair and neoconservative figures in Washington, Dr Rangwala makes a robust case against Mr Blair, which one assumes even the late Robin Cook would have found more convincing than Blair’s case for war. MPs that obligingly voted for the war have a moral duty, surely, to ask what Mr Cook knew at the time to cause him to vote against the war; were they just gullible and naïve, or did Mr Cook just possess more humanity?
In any case, the evidence cited by Dr Rangwala is, to say the least, incriminating. He writes that, from late 2001 to March 2003, Mr Blair made three interrelated statements repeatedly to the House of Commons: Firstly, that no decision had been taken to use military force against Iraq; secondly, that military action could be avoided by Iraq’s disarmament of its nuclear, chemical and biological weapons (that did not exist in the first place for it to be disarmed) and; thirdly, that regime change was not the goal of UK government policy.
Citing evidence presented in the Chilcot report, he goes on to add that Mr Blair was deliberately misleading the House of Commons. Mr Blair backed up his claims about the need for Iraq’s disarmament by asserting that there was conclusive evidence of Iraq’s possession of “weapons of mass destruction,” and that these weapons were a threat to the UK’s national security. All these crucial points, the Cambridge lecturer states, contradicted the intelligence assessments that had been put to Mr Blair.
The report then goes on to debunk Mr Blair’s infamous line that “no decision has been taken” about action against Iraq when, in fact, the Chilcot report reveals that from December 2001, Mr Blair had been proposing an invasion of Iraq to the US administration and had been offering UK military support for that invasion.
The most incriminating of all the revelations is that there was a clear contradiction between what Mr Blair told parliament and what his real intentions were. Having already decided to support the neoconservative agenda for the Middle East and go to war with Iraq in order to change the regime, Mr Blair spent nearly two years manufacturing the case for war; massaging intelligence data, developing the “evidence” and argument to win over the UN, major allies and to bring the British parliament on board.
A year before the war, Mr Blair emphasised to then-President Bush and senior members in his office that “we need a strategy for regime change that builds over time… I think we need a roadmap to getting rid of Saddam… Getting rid of Saddam is the right thing to do.”
He said this while being conscious of the fact that regime change was illegal and could not be sold to the public, and so the former prime minister devised tactics of propaganda, commenting: “We must look reluctant to use force… show that we have made every effort to avoid war,” all while he fixed the evidence in pursuit of a policy that was agreed on years before the invasion in March 2003.
The fact that Mr Blair has been allowed to get away with causing mayhem and destruction on a genocidal scale should not surprise anyone. Gaps of impunity are carefully created and managed in the international system for the likes of Mr Blair to pursue agendas that would normally be blocked by a properly functioning democratic system.
What in another context is morally corrupt and criminal behaviour deserving of the highest reprimand is reduced to nothing more than a technical problem that requires fixing. For Mr Blair to truly face justice in this world, it was always going to require more than a token parliamentary vote in the UK. The evidence against Blair is marked in history, and now it is only a matter of time to see whether he will ever be held to account in his lifetime.
At a meeting with the Parliamentary Committee on Foreign Policy the Defense Minister of Denmark, Anders Samuelsen, said that Denmark would not renew a six-month mission of 7 F-16 fighters of Royal Air Force, participating in the US-led coalition’ operation against ISIS terrorists in Syria and Iraq.
The decision was made just a few days after the Pentagon announced that the September air strike in Deir ez-Zor, which led to serious casualties among the Syrian army soldiers had been caused by a series of human errors, inaccurate information, intelligence and problems with communication.
We can assume that, in this way, Denmark has expressed its disagreement with the fact that Washington so easily named the “human factor” as the main cause of incident, rather than to identify the real perpetrators of it.
Next month, Donald J. Trump, with hand on Bible, will be sworn in as the 45th President of the United States. Or will he? The recent talk about recounting votes and ‘faithless electors’ suggests this highly contentious power struggle is far from over.
In fact, it may be just beginning.
Anybody who believes Hillary Rodham Clinton has been sent to the political graveyard by a Manhattan real estate developer has forgotten the cruel surprises of recent history (Remember the Greek referendum? Brexit anyone?). Democratic due process has devolved into something like ‘The Hunger Games’ for the rich – a sensational televised spectacle to entertain the elite every four years, while keeping the people believing they can effect real change.
Although it may seem implausible to some, Donald J. Trump may be denied the presidency due to a democratic system that has been corrupted to the bone by excessive wealth, power and collusion at the highest levels.
Countdown to disaster?
As the world media continues to eulogize Cuban leader Fidel Castro, the neocon-liberal establishment is quietly positioning their chess pieces for a power grab of epic proportions. As far as I can tell, there are three stages of this silent coup presently being carried out on behalf of Hillary Clinton.
The first step in the process was to perpetuate the news that although Donald Trump won the Electoral College (306-232), he failed to win the popular vote – reportedly by 2.5 million votes, at last count.
Clinton’s alleged victory in the popular vote count, which continued for three weeks after Nov.9 (keep in mind that most of the vote monitors had already went home as these votes were being quietly tallied), could present serious complications for Trump and his chances of entering the White House, as will become clear a bit later.
Meanwhile, the blatantly anti-Trump media is conducting “thought experiments” to show how Clinton would have, could have, should have won the Electoral College if only the Electoral map had been spliced and diced here and there across the nation. The implicit media message behind all of this tomfoolery, of course, is that Wall Street-approved Clinton deserves her coronation, because, well, that is what the elite want, democratic procedure be damned.
This ongoing campaign on behalf of Clinton is much more than just sour grapes; in fact, it is a war of attrition designed to exert undue pressure on the Electoral College, the rickety institution that got Trump elected in the first place. And although it has never robbed an election from a candidate who has gained the majority of Electoral College votes, there is a possibility – and a very high one in this particular battle – of so-called “faithless electors” tipping this contest in Clinton’s favor.
This represents the second stage of Clinton’s attempt at reversing the results of the presidential election in her favor.
Will the Electoral College go rogue?
The Electoral College is scheduled to meet on December 19 to perform what, under normal circumstances, would be a mere formality of voting for either Clinton or Trump, according to the will of their constituents.
Needless to say, we are not dealing with “normal circumstances.”
The 2016 presidential campaign represents an epic power struggle that will determine the trajectory of US domestic and foreign policy like no other contest in recent history. No surprise, then, that neo-liberal lobbying groups have been exerting immense pressure on these electors to ignore the will of the people and “vote their conscience.”
You’d be very wrong to think this couldn’t work. If 37 Republican electors vote against Trump, it will block him from winning the presidency. The Democrat’s team of lawyers and political consultants are now working around the clock to make this happen.
Micheal Baca, a Denver Democrat and a member of the state’s Electoral College delegation, is one of the individuals working to persuade Republican electors to discard the will of the people and vote for anybody but Trump.
Baca makes no secret about his intentions to override the Constitution and go rogue.
“This is not about Hillary,” he said. “This is about trying to stop Donald Trump.”
Let’s take a moment and perform our own “thought experiment” and consider the repercussions if Hillary Clinton is inaugurated as President instead of Trump. If the country is not completely overwhelmed by coast-to-coast riots and protests, and there is somehow a peaceful transition of power, then Clinton can expect to face four years of the most hostile, uncooperative (Republican) Congress in American history (although given the number of neocons who openly support Clinton and her hawkish tendencies, there could be points of agreement).
In a best-case scenario, it would be a four-year-long government shutdown, aside from performing the necessary task of maintaining ‘law and order’ at home while continuing on a war footing abroad. America would get its first real taste of what martial law feels like.
The American Conservative painted the following picture as to what would happen if Trump’s Electoral College victory were rescinded: “Constitutional government would have broken down, and we would be facing something like a Latin American presidential dictatorship. For several years, Washington’s political debate would be reduced to something like a Hobbesian war of all against all.”
Is that something we really need? Apparently it is for some folks, and not least of all Green Party presidential candidate, Jill Stein.
And this brings us to the final stage of a possible Clinton coup.
Civil War, anyone?
It is generally assumed that it was Jill Stein, the Green Party presidential candidate who masterminded the call for a recount of votes in Wisconsin, Michigan, and Pennsylvania. That’s not quite right.
New York magazine reported that on November 17 Hillary Clinton was “urged by a group of prominent computer scientists and election lawyers to call for a recount in three swing states won by Donald Trump… The group is so far not speaking on the record about their findings and is focused on lobbying the Clinton team in private.”
Just one day after the above article appeared (Nov. 22), Jill Stein, who came in dead last with about 3 million votes less than Gary ‘What is Aleppo?’ Johnson, announced she would be collecting money to recount votes in the swing states. By the way, one of the odd things about Stein’s choice of swing states is that these are the same places where Trump emerged victorious. Coincidence or conspiracy theory, that alone should have set off some alarms.
In any case, the reason Stein and not Clinton is calling for the recount is evident: Throughout the campaign, the media hounded Trump with a single annoying question never asked of the future loser: Would he accept the results of the election in the event he lost? When Trump said he would take a “wait and see” approach, Clinton assumed a holier than thou position.
“Now make no mistake,” Clinton solemnly told supporters, “by doing that, he is threatening our democracy. The peaceful transition of power is one of the things that sets us apart. It’s how we hold our country together no matter who’s in charge.”
So now that the tables are turned, Stein is in the kitchen doing the dirty work. And the media suddenly can’t get enough of this woman who haunted the 2016 election like a phantom sighting.
Here’s how News Busters tallied her sudden stardom: “When Jill Stein was the Green Party’s candidate for US president, the networks only gave her 36 seconds of coverage. However, as soon as she launched a campaign to contest the presidential election and demand a recount of ballots in several key states, the evening news shows on ABC, CBS and NBC managed to find 7 minutes and 26 seconds of coverage for her in just four days. That’s more than 12 times as much coverage as in the entire campaign.”
But it gets better. Stein has managed to accumulate a massive war chest to carry out the recount – $7 million at last count (or about seven times what she received during her entire presidential campaign). At one point, her recount drive was pulling in almost $5,000 every minute. Somehow that doesn’t sound like the average Joe Voter digging deep in his Levi’s. Even more mysteriously, when Stein first started passing the hat around, she said $2.5 million would be plenty, thank you very much. Yet every time she hit the target, a higher threshold was introduced. Just can’t keep up with inflation these days!
Is Stein’s campaign simply about collecting some easy money while giving the Green Party some much-needed attention? Or is Stein just trying to shed some much-needed light on the dry rot that is gnawing away at the foundation of US democracy? All that, however necessary, seems very unlikely. After all, the recount plan was initially floated to Hillary Clinton, not Jill Stein. Thus, we must assume this is all part of a major power push for Hillary Clinton to grab the White House from Donald Trump.
As Paul Joseph Watson elegantly put it: “Her entire campaign was backed by an establishment that wouldn’t hesitate to exploit a recount to carry out the vote fraud they thought they didn’t need on Election Day.”
And here is where we can fit the last piece into the puzzle to understand what is really going on here. If the recount effort alone won’t make much of a difference to either Clinton or Stein’s chances of overturning the massive edge that Trump now enjoys, then why are they bothering themselves? Hold onto your seats, folks, this gets interesting.
The answer boils down to simple arithmetic, as well as some monkey play in the system.
Presently, Michigan has already agreed to a recount, which will be carried out this weekend and require hand-counting of ballots in the regions. This process will take many days. Federal law requires the recount to be finished by Dec. 13 – just six days before the Electoral College is expected to cast its votes.
Wisconsin has already agreed to a recount, while Pennsylvania is dragging its feet. In other words, this process will probably take us right up to Dec. 19 – the date the Electoral College is supposed to cast their votes (Why the Electoral College vote isn’t valid without these voters, who could go rogue, is a question for another day).
Keep in mind that the total number of Electoral College Votes in Wisconsin, Michigan, and Pennsylvania equals 46. Now take Trump’s 306 Electoral votes and subtract that amount. This leaves you with 260, which is below the 270 required for a candidate to be automatically considered the winner of a presidential election. Do you see where this is going?
Now if this recount should start to point toward a Clinton victory in these three swing states, this will present Trump with a very serious quandary. Should he kick up a fuss and protest the recount on the grounds that he won the Electoral College, this could provoke some sort of “constitutional crisis” that prevents the recount from being completed by the Dec. 13 deadline.
Now, if the matter remains unsettled by Dec. 19 this could – technically speaking – give the Electoral College’s “faithless electors” yet more reason for not aligning themselves with their constituents. Or, on the other hand, the Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania votes could be considered forfeited because they failed to resolve the issue by the Dec. 19 deadline.
So if it did come down to this, who do you think will be selected – possibly by the very Supreme Court that Trump hopes to disband once in office – to be the 45th president of the United States?
Yes, Hillary Rodham Clinton, the candidate we have been told got 2.5 million more popular votes than Donald Trump (I would suggest Trump start a serious process to challenge those votes right now).
For those who still doubt this possibility, please consider the two latest failed grassroots movements of our times – Brexit and the Greek referendum – two examples of ‘democracy in action’ that the political elite has de facto canceled or put on hold indefinitely.
Such dramatic setbacks, which are becoming the rule rather than the exception, lend credence to Mark Twain’s famous observation that “If voting made any difference they wouldn’t let us do it.”
In other words, the elite will always get what they want, regardless how the votes goes.
Clinton seizing the White House through the backdoor would not be the strangest thing to happen in old Washington. Just ask George W. Bush how he got elected president in 2000 by the Supreme Court, not We the People.
Robert Bridge is an American writer and journalist based in Moscow, Russia. His articles have been featured in many publications, including Russia in Global Affairs, The Moscow Times, Lew Rockwell and Global Research. Bridge is the author of the book on corporate power, “Midnight in the American Empire”, which was released in 2013. email: firstname.lastname@example.org
“I have in my possession a secret map, made in Germany by Hitler’s government — by the planners of the New World Order,” FDR told the nation in his Navy Day radio address of Oct. 27, 1941.
“It is a map of South America as Hitler proposes to reorganize it. The geographical experts of Berlin, however, have ruthlessly obliterated all the existing boundary lines … bringing the whole continent under their domination,” said Roosevelt. “This map makes clear the Nazi design not only against South America but against the United States as well.”
Our leader had another terrifying secret document, “made in Germany by Hitler’s government. …
“It is a plan to abolish all existing religions — Protestant, Catholic, Mohammedan, Hindu, Buddhist and Jewish alike. … In the place of the churches of our civilization, there is to be set up an international Nazi Church…
“In the place of the Bible, the words of ‘Mein Kampf’ will be imposed and enforced as Holy Writ. And in place of the cross of Christ will be put two symbols — the swastika and the naked sword. … A god of blood and iron will take the place of the God of love and mercy.”
The source of these astounding secret Nazi plans?
They were forgeries by British agents in New York operating under William Stephenson, Churchill’s “Man Called Intrepid,” whose assignment was to do whatever necessary to bring the U.S. into Britain’s war.
FDR began his address by describing two German submarine attacks on U.S. destroyers Greer and Kearny, the later of which had been torpedoed with a loss of 11 American lives.
Said FDR: “We have wished to avoid shooting. But the shooting has started. And history has recorded who fired the first shot.”
The truth: Greer and Kearny had been tracking German subs for British planes dropping depth charges.
It was FDR who desperately wanted war with Germany, while, for all his crimes, Hitler desperately wanted to avoid war with the United States.
Said Cong. Clare Boothe Luce, FDR “lied us into war because he did not have the political courage to lead us into it.”
By late 1941, most Americans still wanted to stay out of the war. They believed “lying British propaganda” about Belgian babies being tossed around on German bayonets had sucked us into World War I, from which the British Empire had benefited mightily.
What brings these episodes to mind is the wave of indignation sweeping this capital over “fake news” allegedly created by Vladimir Putin’s old KGB comrades, and regurgitated by U.S. individuals, websites and magazines that are anti-interventionist and anti-war.
Ohio Sen. Rob Portman says the “propaganda and disinformation threat” against America is real, and we must “counter and combat it.” Congress is working up a $160 million State Department program.
Now, Americans should be on guard against “fake news” and foreign meddling in U.S. elections.
Yet it is often our own allies, like the Brits, and our own leaders who mislead and lie us into unnecessary wars. And is not meddling in the internal affairs, including the elections, of regimes we do not like, pretty much the job description of the CIA and the National Endowment for Democracy?
History suggests it is our own War Party that bears watching.
Consider Operation Iraqi Freedom.
Who misled, deceived, and lied about Saddam’s weapons of mass destruction, the “fake news” that sucked us into one of our country’s greatest strategic blunders?
Who lied for years about an Iranian nuclear weapons program, which almost dragged us into a war, before all 16 U.S. intelligence agencies debunked that propaganda in 2007 and 2011?
Yet, there are those, here and abroad, who insist that Iran has a secret nuclear weapons program. Their goal: war with Iran.
Were we told the whole truth about the August 1964 incident involving North Vietnamese gunboats and U.S. destroyers Maddox and C. Turner Joy, which stampeded Congress into voting a near-unanimous resolution that led us into an eight-year war in Southeast Asia?
One can go back deeper into American history.
Cong. Abe Lincoln disbelieved in President Polk’s claim that the Mexican army had crossed the Rio Grande and “shed American blood upon American soil.” In his “spot” resolution, Lincoln demanded to know the exact spot where the atrocity had occurred that resulted in a U.S. army marching to Mexico City and relieving Mexico of half of her country.
Was Assistant Navy Secretary Theodore Roosevelt telling us the truth when he said of our blasted battleship in Havana harbor, “The Maine was sunk by an act of dirty treachery on the part of the Spaniards”?
No one ever proved that the Spanish caused the explosion.
Yet America got out of his war what T.R. wanted — Puerto Rico, Guam and the Philippines, an empire of our own.
“In wartime, truth is so precious that she should always be attended by a bodyguard of lies.”
So said Winston Churchill, the grandmaster of fake news.
Patrick J. Buchanan is the author of the new book “The Greatest Comeback: How Richard Nixon Rose From Defeat to Create the New Majority.”
Copyright 2016 Creators.com
Rami Jarrah (who is widely cited as an authority by mainstream Western media) posted the Arabic leaflet dropped by Syrian government forces and the English translation by Human Rights Watch, which has been widely circulated.
I will provide to you my translation of the original Arabic and you judge how reliable the translation by Human Rights Watch is. [Moreover they have shortened the text of the message]
The Arabic says (in full):
“Read and Repeat. This is the last hope. Save yourselves.
If you don’t evacuate those areas soon, you shall be finished off (or vanquished or destroyed).
WE have provided you with a safe passage to exit. Take your decision fast. Save yourselves.
You know that all have abandoned you and left you by yourselves to face your destiny and they won’t provide you with any help. General Command of the army and armed forces.”
PS The word annihilation is very specific and has an equal Arabic equivalent “Ibadah” which does not appear in the original Arabic.
Under the cover of battling “fake news,” the mainstream U.S. news media and officialdom are taking aim at journalistic skepticism when it is directed at the pronouncements of the U.S. government and its allies.
One might have hoped that the alarm about “fake news” would remind major U.S. news outlets, such as The Washington Post and The New York Times, about the value of journalistic skepticism. However, instead, it seems to have done the opposite.
The idea of questioning the claims by the West’s officialdom now brings calumny down upon the heads of those who dare do it. “Truth” is being redefined as whatever the U.S. government, NATO and other Western interests say is true. Disagreement with the West’s “group thinks,” no matter how fact-based the dissent is, becomes “fake news.”
So, we have the case of Washington Post columnist David Ignatius having a starry-eyed interview with Richard Stengel, the State Department’s Undersecretary for Public Diplomacy, the principal arm of U.S. government propaganda.
Entitled “The truth is losing,” the column laments that the official narratives as deigned by the State Department and The Washington Post are losing traction with Americans and the world’s public.
Stengel, a former managing editor at Time magazine, seems to take aim at Russia’s RT network’s slogan, “question more,” as some sinister message seeking to inject cynicism toward the West’s official narratives.
“They’re not trying to say that their version of events is the true one. They’re saying: ‘Everybody’s lying! Nobody’s telling you the truth!’,” Stengel said. “They don’t have a candidate, per se. But they want to undermine faith in democracy, faith in the West.”
Typical of these recent mainstream tirades about this vague Russian menace, Ignatius’s column doesn’t provide any specifics regarding how RT and other Russian media outlets are carrying out this assault on the purity of Western information. It’s enough to just toss around pejorative phrases supporting an Orwellian solution, which is to stamp out or marginalize alternative and independent journalism, not just Russian.
Ignatius writes: “Stengel poses an urgent question for journalists, technologists and, more broadly, everyone living in free societies or aspiring to do so. How do we protect the essential resource of democracy — the truth — from the toxin of lies that surrounds it? It’s like a virus or food poisoning. It needs to be controlled. But how?
“Stengel argues that the U.S. government should sometimes protect citizens by exposing ‘weaponized information, false information’ that is polluting the ecosystem. But ultimately, the defense of truth must be independent of a government that many people mistrust. ‘There are inherent dangers in having the government be the verifier of last resort,’ he argues.”
By the way, Stengel is not the fount of truth-telling, as he and Ignatius like to pretend. Early in the Ukraine crisis, Stengel delivered a rant against RT that was full of inaccuracies or what you might call “fake news.”
Yet, what Stengel and various mainstream media outlets appear to be arguing for is the creation of a “Ministry of Truth” managed by mainstream U.S. media outlets and enforced by Google, Facebook and other technology platforms.
In other words, once these supposedly responsible outlets decide what the “truth” is, then questioning that narrative will earn you “virtual” expulsion from the marketplace of ideas, possibly eliminated via algorithms of major search engines or marked with a special app to warn readers not to believe what you say, a sort of yellow Star of David for the Internet age.
And then there’s the possibility of more direct (and old-fashioned) government enforcement by launching FBI investigations into media outlets that won’t toe the official line. (All of these “solutions” have been advocated in recent weeks.)
On the other hand, if you do toe the official line that comes from Stengel’s public diplomacy shop, you stand to get rewarded with government financial support. Stengel disclosed in his interview with Ignatius that his office funds “investigative” journalism projects.
“How should citizens who want a fact-based world combat this assault on truth?” Ignatius asks, adding: “Stengel has approved State Department programs that teach investigative reporting and empower truth-tellers.”
After reading Ignatius’s column on Wednesday, I submitted a question to the State Department asking for details on this “journalism” and “truth-telling” funding that is coming from the U.S. government’s top propaganda shop, but I have not received an answer.
But we do know that the U.S. government has been investing tens of millions of dollars in various media programs to undergird Washington’s desired narratives.
For instance, in May 2015, the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) issued a fact sheet summarizing its work financing friendly journalists around the world, including “journalism education, media business development, capacity building for supportive institutions, and strengthening legal-regulatory environments for free media.”
USAID estimated its budget for “media strengthening programs in over 30 countries” at $40 million annually, including aiding “independent media organizations and bloggers in over a dozen countries,” In Ukraine before the 2014 coup ousting elected President Viktor Yanukovych and installing a fiercely anti-Russian and U.S.-backed regime, USAID offered training in “mobile phone and website security,” skills that would have been quite helpful to the coup plotters.
USAID, working with currency speculator George Soros’s Open Society, also has funded the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project, which engages in “investigative journalism” that usually goes after governments that have fallen into disfavor with the United States and then are singled out for accusations of corruption. The USAID-funded OCCRP collaborates with Bellingcat, an online investigative website founded by blogger Eliot Higgins.
Higgins has spread misinformation on the Internet, including discredited claims implicating the Syrian government in the sarin attack in 2013 and directing an Australian TV news crew to what appeared to be the wrong location for a video of a BUK anti-aircraft battery as it supposedly made its getaway to Russia after the shoot-down of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 in 2014.
Despite his dubious record of accuracy, Higgins has gained mainstream acclaim, in part, because his “findings” always match up with the propaganda theme that the U.S. government and its Western allies are peddling. Higgins is now associated with the Atlantic Council, a pro-NATO think tank which is partially funded by the U.S. State Department.
Beyond funding from the State Department and USAID, tens of millions of dollars more are flowing through the U.S.-government-funded National Endowment for Democracy, which was started in 1983 under the guiding hand of CIA Director William Casey.
NED became a slush fund to help finance what became known, inside the Reagan administration, as “perception management,” the art of controlling the perceptions of domestic and foreign populations.
The Emergence of StratCom
Last year, as the New Cold War heated up, NATO created the Strategic Communications Command in Latvia to further wage information warfare against Russia and individuals who were contesting the West’s narratives.
As veteran war correspondent Don North reported in 2015 regarding this new StratCom, “the U.S. government has come to view the control and manipulation of information as a ‘soft power’ weapon, merging psychological operations, propaganda and public affairs under the catch phrase ‘strategic communications.’
“This attitude has led to treating psy-ops — manipulative techniques for influencing a target population’s state of mind and surreptitiously shaping people’s perceptions — as just a normal part of U.S. and NATO’s information policy.”
Now, the European Parliament and the U.S. Congress are moving to up the ante, passing new legislation to escalate “information warfare.”
On Wednesday, U.S. congressional negotiators approved $160 million to combat what they deem foreign propaganda and the alleged Russian campaign to spread “fake news.” The measure is part of the National Defense Authorization Act and gives the State Department the power to identify “propaganda” and counter it.
This bipartisan stampede into an Orwellian future for the American people and the world’s population follows a shoddily sourced Washington Post article that relied on a new anonymous group that identified some 200 Internet sites, including some of the most prominent American independent sources of news, as part of a Russian propaganda network.
Typical of this new McCarthyism, the report lacked evidence that any such network actually exists but instead targeted cases where American journalists expressed skepticism about claims from Western officialdom.
Consortiumnews.com was included on the list apparently because we have critically analyzed some of the claims and allegations regarding the crises in Syria and Ukraine, rather than simply accept the dominant Western “group thinks.”
Also on the “black list” were such quality journalism sites as Counterpunch, Truth-out, Truthdig, Naked Capitalism and ZeroHedge along with many political sites ranging across the ideological spectrum.
The Fake-News Express
Normally such an unfounded conspiracy theory would be ignored, but – because The Washington Post treated the incredible allegations as credible – the smear has taken on a life of its own, reprised by cable networks and republished by major newspapers.
But the unpleasant truth is that the mainstream U.S. news media is now engaged in its own fake-news campaign about “fake news.” It’s publishing bogus claims invented by a disreputable and secretive outfit that just recently popped up on the Internet. If that isn’t “fake news,” I don’t know what is.
Yet, despite the Post’s clear violations of normal journalistic practices, surely, no one there will pay a price, anymore than there was accountability for the Post reporting as flat fact that Iraq was hiding WMD in 2002-2003. Fred Hiatt, the editorial-page editor most responsible for that catastrophic “group think,” is still in the same job today.
Two nights ago, MSNBC’s Chris Matthews featured the spurious Washington Post article in a segment that – like similar rehashes –didn’t bother to get responses from the journalists being slandered.
I found that ironic since Matthews repeatedly scolds journalists for their failure to look skeptically at U.S. government claims about Iraq possessing WMD as justification for the disastrous Iraq War. However, now Matthews joins in smearing journalists who have applied skepticism to U.S. and Western propaganda claims about Syria and/or Ukraine.
While the U.S. Congress and the European Parliament begin to take action to shut down or isolate dissident sources of information – all in the name of “democracy” – a potentially greater danger is that mainstream U.S. news outlets are already teaming up with technology companies, such as Google and Facebook, to impose their own determinations about “truth” on the Internet.
Or, as Ignatius puts it in his column reflecting Undersecretary for Public Diplomacy Stengel’s thinking, “The best hope may be the global companies that have created the social-media platforms.
“‘They see this information war as an existential threat,’ says Stengel. … The real challenge for global tech giants is to restore the currency of truth. Perhaps “machine learning” [presumably a reference to algorithms] can identify falsehoods and expose every argument that uses them. Perhaps someday, a human-machine process will create what Stengel describes as a ‘global ombudsman for information.’”
Ministry of Truth
An organization of some 30 mainstream media companies already exists, including not only The Washington Post and The New York Times but also the Atlantic Council-connected Bellingcat, as the emerging arbiters – or ombudsmen – for truth, something Orwell described less flatteringly as a “Ministry of Truth.”
The New York Times has even editorialized in support of Internet censorship, using the hysteria over “fake news” to justify the marginalization or disappearance of dissident news sites.
It now appears that this 1984-ish “MiniTrue” will especially target journalistic skepticism when applied to U.S. government and mainstream media “group thinks.”
Yet, in my four decades-plus in professional journalism, I always understood that skepticism was a universal journalistic principle, one that should be applied in all cases, whether a Republican or a Democrat is in the White House or whether some foreign leader is popular or demonized.
As we have seen in recent years, failure to ask tough questions and to challenge dubious claims from government officials and mainstream media outlets can get lots of people killed, both U.S. soldiers and citizens of countries invaded or destabilized by outsiders.
To show skepticism is not the threat to democracy that Undersecretary Stengel and columnist Ignatius appear to think it is.
Whether you like or dislike RT’s broadcasts – or more likely have never seen one – a journalist really can’t question its slogan: “question more.” Questioning is the essence of journalism and, for that matter, democracy.
[In protest of the Post’s smearing of independent journalists, RootsAction has undertaken a petition drive, which can be found here.]
Investigative reporter Robert Parry broke many of the Iran-Contra stories for The Associated Press and Newsweek in the 1980s.